The core of this unorthodox dance band is made up of Rollo Armstrong, a pioneer of the British house scene, and Sister Bliss, one of the world’s most successful female DJs. The original line-up was joined by rapper Maxi Jazz (Max Frazer), singer/writer/instrumentalist Jamie Catto, and guitarist Dave Randall, with Rollo’s sister Dido Armstrong adding occasional vocals. The interesting combination of different styles and skills, as well as the band’s incredible energy on tours, brought them a huge commercial success and great reviews.
The debut single Salva Mea became one of the best and most influential house editions in the ‘90s. Its 1995 release reached UK Top 30, but it soon disappeared from the charts. Its re-release in December 1996 shot straight to the UK Top 10, shattering the Brit house scene. Its huge popularity with one million sold copies gave birth to Faithless imitators (Sash!’s Encore Une Fois).
The debut album Reverence was a classic Faithless phenomenon. Although it did not sell well initially, it was eventually certified gold in 22 countries. Reverence was hard to categorize, as its tracks ranged from dub, through rap, to more traditional love songs (Don't Leave) and dance floor epics, such as Salva Mea and Insomnia. Maxi Jazz’s semi-whispered rapping added a provocative edge to the soaring electronic sweeps of Rollo and Sister Bliss. He built his style rapping and playing records on London’s pirate radio. Sister Bliss, a classically trained pianist and a great house producer, often tested new melodies on the band’s tours. Maxi and Sister Bliss became the real front figures of the band. Both very intelligent, they complemented each other perfectly on the scene (Maxi is a Buddhist and Sister Bliss is a provocative, walking house encyclopedia).
The international success which followed the release of Reverence took them to a grand 18-month tour of 25 countries. They performed in Moscow, the United States, Israel (during bombing attacks, South Africa (in front of 20,000 people), Turkey, and Scandinavia (in the city closest to North Pole).
Their hard work brought them many nominations and awards, including a European Grammy for Best International Dance Band, while Rollo and Sister Bliss were also awarded as the best producers. Faithless’ popularity grew, not thanks to a fancy marketing campaign, but the genuine quality of their music. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. named Reverence his favorite album of the year, while Danny Boyle included three of their songs in his movie A Life Less Ordinary.
The second album, Sunday 8pm, centered on a more meditative, ambient sound, but big DJ names, such as Paul Van Dyk and Robbie Rivera, retained Faithless’ popularity in the clubs with their singles’ remixes. The first of these, provocatively titled God Is a DJ, was a UK Top 10 hit in 1998. In October that year, Faithless won the UK Musik magazine’s Best Live Act award. In that period, they performed wherever there was interest for their music. Mostly ignored by the mainstream, they returned from tours as veterans of the world’s live scene, which hardly anyone could dispute at the time.
The 1999 Saturday 3am remix set and the third studio album Outrospective (2001) with the We Come 1 single, reasserted Faithless’ club ratings. The album came after four years spent on world tours. Having become a sort of dance music anomaly, Faithless strives to achieve an original sound and intelligent lyrics, as well as to become a respected live band in the proper meaning of the word.